Saraki, Kwara govt in row over rejection of instructional materials for schools

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Covers of books distributed by representatives of former Senate President Bukola Saraki at Kwara State schools
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Nigeria’s immediate past Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the Kwara State Government are engaged in a row over the rejection of instructional materials donated by Saraki to schools in the state.

Agents of the senator known as the Mandate Office had approached some schools in the Ilorin metropolis with books for his constituents but were turned back.

EduCeleb.com understands that the instructional materials were within the 2018 budget on constituency projects and attached to the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) as implementer.

They should have got to the beneficiaries last year. But sources close to the senator who left office last June after an electoral loss claimed that the budget wasn’t funded on time.

Aside textbooks and notebooks, other instructional materials meant for distribution included science laboratory equipment, mathematics kits, computer systems and generator sets.

However, the focus had particularly been on the books, which the state government said have Saraki’s pictures “or some sort of personal identities emblazoned on them.”

But the ex-senator’s men have dismissed the claim.

A copy of one of the books seen by EduCeleb.com however made reference to the books as Mr Saraki’s constituency project.

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Why government rejected the materials

Spokesperson of the Kwara Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development, Yakub Aliagan said the rejection of the books was necessitated by their non-compliance with standards.

He claimed that the State Government was not aware of the distribution of these instructional materials and wondered why the distribution was not appropriately channelled through the education ministry “which has a statutory duty of vetting learning materials for quality control and then approve such for distribution.”

“Besides, it is wrong for anyone to emblazon their images or personal logos on instructional materials made with public resources for distribution in public schools.

“The said materials were some sort of Constituency Projects which have been approved and funded by the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

He added that the Kwara State Ministry of Education recently approached Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq to mass-produce instructional materials with his picture emblazoned on them ahead of school resumption and the Governor rejected the proposal on the ground that there should be no personalisation of projects executed with public funds.

The rejection, according to him was because “there should be no politicisation of education, whether directly or indirectly, especially at the basic level where the children are very impressionable.”

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“Since the materials had been produced with government funds, we urge the Mandate Office of Senator Bukola Saraki to return them to the Ministry of Education after having replaced the covers emblazoned with personal photographs or political identities,” he added.

Saraki’s office reacts

Director of Project and Empowerment, Saraki’s Mandate Office, Ibraheem Otukoko, said the government had a misconception with the project to have rejected the materials.

“During the needs assessment conducted by the mandate office, we collaborated with the LGEA offices, which are directly in charge of Basic Schools (Primary 1 – 6 and JSS 1 – 3) across the four Local Governments for capturing of schools with basic infrastructure and material needs and same was communicated to UBEC by Mandate office for implementation,” he wrote in a press release.

Prior to distribution of the items, Mr Otukoko revealed that the mandate office informed the LGAs offices again to invite the selected schools, as shortlisted by UBEC to Mandate office for collection of “approved” items for their respective schools.

“So, to say the State Government is not aware of the distribution will throw many unanswerable questions to one’s mind,” Ibraheem added.

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On the standard of materials distributed, he said the materials are of the UBEC standards across the country,

“It was published by the Federal Government approved publishers such as RASMED Publishers Limited, BINANI publishing Limited, STRAIGHT GATE publisher Limited and others as they are in the UBEC database as approved publishers.”

“So, for the ministry to say the items are “substandard” and need vetting would mean that the ministry is not aware of these processes undergone by the UBEC already or that the Ministry decided not to know to allow it dance to the tune dictated by the payer of the piper.

Otukoko explained that the state government has no substantial position to reject the materials without a deep consideration of the values this will add to the lives of the pupils.

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